Acid Reflux Cured by Kombucha?

A friend of mine had acid reflux. When he ate certain foods — tea, chocolate, foods high in sugar or fat — and when he ate too much, he got a pain in his stomach. “Maybe I’ve got an ulcer,” he thought. He first noticed it after eating brussels sprouts, about a year or so ago. At the time it was only uncomfortable. He was taking Alleve for back pain around that time — that might have messed up his stomach. He was also worrying a lot at the time.

It got worse. Periodically he would have pain in his stomach in the middle of the night and during the day. In particular, after eating Oreo cookies. Mint tea, which he thought would help, made it worse. Friends suggested he try Prilosec OTC. A 14-day course seemed to clear it up. A month after the Prilosec ended, however, he went to a big party. He ate a lot of food, a lot of different things. He woke up in the middle of the night with the worst pain yet. So then he went to a doctor. The doctor said it was probably acid reflux; try Asiphex ($60 for two weeks), he said. It was less effective than the Prilosec. Then I suggested that some sort of fermented product might help. So he bought Activa yogurt. It wasn’t clear if it had any effect; maybe a small one.

Recently he was in Rainbow Grocery, in San Francisco. They sell kombucha. He bought some because I had spoken particularly highly of it. After four days of drinking it, he felt much better even though he’d only finished 3/4s of the bottle. His stomach doesn’t hurt any more. That improves his mood. His back feels a lot better — but that comes and goes. That might be a placebo effect, he says — “even though I don’t believe in kombucha, I think it’s bunk, but I have to admit that it works,” he says.

He’d heard of kombucha from his colleagues about three years ago. They raved about it but it seemed faddish to him. He’d tried it, but just to taste it. He doesn’t eat any fermented foods besides vinegar; he doesn’t drink wine or beer. Hadn’t been eating yogurt. He had gone on a vegan diet for a few months before the Prilosec. He’d thought the vegan diet would protect him from stomach problems, but he was wrong.

He has continued to drink small amounts of kombucha and the improvement has persisted, although recently something mint at a party caused a problem.

16 Responses to “Acid Reflux Cured by Kombucha?”

  1. dgm Says:

    Isn’t unfiltered apple cider vinegar also supposed to prevent acid reflux?

  2. Tom in TX Says:

    Water worked very well for me. When I stay hydrated, no acid reflux.

  3. karky Says:

    Before I started drinking apple cider vinegar every day I got heartburn from drinking plain water. Water with a slice of lemon didn’t cause heartburn at all, but plain old water did. And it didn’t have to be a lot of water either, just a small glass of water would do it.
    But since I have been drinking the vinegar every day, I haven’t had any heartburn at all.

  4. Adam Says:

    Famotidine takes care of the acid reflux problems for me :)

  5. Tom in TX Says:

    @Adam: That is good, but for me I would like to get to the cause of the problem and fix that, rather than just relieve the symptoms. I am pretty sure acid reflux is not caused by a Famotidine deficiency. 8-) I do not know much about Famotidine specifically, but in general medications cost money, do not really cure the disease, and generate their own side-effects.

  6. Adam Says:

    Sure, I get that. For me the causes are pretty apparent: spicey food. But I’m not about to give that up. Famotidine is OTC and cheap, has an excellent safety profile, and lasts 24 hours, so I use that when it flares up.

  7. peter Says:

    the causes of acid reflux are probably varied. One cause is the the sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach becomes defective and the stomach acid (which is otherwise kept in the stomach by a well functioning sphincter) splashes up into the esophagus, thereby causing the sensation that is commonly referred to as acid reflux. the various drugs, i.e., prolosec, pepcid etc.. eliminate the acid thereby eliminating the sensation and discomfort. The problem is that this is a physical condition that requires constant treatment. long term use of prolosec (or other PPI therapies) is associated with both increased hip fractures (as i recall 400% increase) and a 40%? increase in pneumonia (as i recall for hospitalized patients).
    since i have this condition, i’ll try kombucha, but the only way it can work for me is if it somehow eliminates/reduces stomach acid. hard to believe that something acidic will eliminate/reduce stomach acid, but i’m open minded.
    Up to now i’ve found that eating arugula helps to reduce stomach acid (i read about an extract of arugula being used as an alternative to drugs such as prolosec; but to my knowledge, an arugula extract is unavailable at this time). and i also take pepcid before i sleep and use a special sleeping wedge to keep my up body at a 20 degree? angle to lessen the acid reflux.
    BTW, the condition is not simply a benign discomfort. It can lead to esophageal cancer, which is the fastest growing cancer in the western world,

  8. tom Says:

    Interesting post on acid reflux by Michael Eades:

    http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/uncategorized/heartburn-cured/

    After a couple of weeks off carbs, acid reflux resolves. What seems to be happening is that a high-carb intake stokes an immense population of intestinal flora which generates enough back pressure to drive acid all the way up to the throat. Take a respite from the carbs, the flora dies down and the throat gets a break.

    I think there is also something in the kombucha which is correcting our internal flora — either suppressing some of the stuff that shouldn’t be there, or supporting stuff that should be there (but isn’t, with a typical diet.)

  9. Nathan Myers Says:

    I’d like to discover something that would allow me to eat onions (and, more particularly, onion powder, which is in everything, sometimes labeled just as “spices”) without causing my sinuses to bleed and the skin in my nose to blister and peel.

  10. beagle Says:

    (Off topic for this post, on topic for Kombucha):

    A Kombucha recipe, and links to problems with Kombucha:

    http://feeds.boingboing.net/~r/boingboing/iBag/~3/COTZIeDpAAw/how-to-make-kombucha.html

  11. peter Says:

    kombucha is a fungus; there is an association between fungus and depression; i wonder if kombucha can cause depression among those prone to the fungus depression syndrome?

  12. Seth’s blog » Blog Archive » Acid Reflux Cured by Kombucha? Yes Says:

    [...] My friend with acid reflux — who used to have acid reflux — contacted me today: My stomach is so much better [since I started drinking kombucha]. I rarely have problems. Every once in a while I might be a little uncomfortable. Then I drink a little kombucha, it gets better within an hour. I got up in the middle of the night the other night and I felt the usual kind of pain, took some sips of the kombucha, felt better, and fell back asleep. Hardly ever have pain now. The kombucha is much more effective than the Asiphax medicine I took. That was $60 for a 10-day course. It might even be more effective than Prilosec. (Which cleared up the problem but then it came back.)  I’ve been drinking kombucha for about three weeks. I really like the grape, guava, and strawberry flavors of the Synergy brand. The grape flavor is like sangria that’s just started to go bad. A couple of people I’ve tried to turn on to it but they just can’t stand the taste. My levels of stress haven’t decreased. I’m drinking less than half a bottle a day. Now the problem is that I forget I’m supposed to have stomach trouble so I forget to drink it. [...]

  13. Caitlin Says:

    I’ve had fantastic luck “curing” my GERD [Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, also called acid reflux] with kombucha. I developed very serious acid reflux very quickly and was prescribed a very high dose of omeprazole to suppress my symptoms. I saw a lot on the internet suggesting that highly acidic foods can actually help control GERD. Apple cider vinegar was too harsh for me, but I love kombucha and by drinking at least 1/2 bottle at least every other day, I have decreased my omeprazole dose from 80 mg/day to 40 mg/day or less. I’m confident that I will be able to eventually wean myself off of the omeprazole completely, but probably won’t be giving up the kombucha anytime soon. Try the Gingerade flavor by GT’s – it’s excellent!

  14. Radar Says:

    RE: Peter

    Kombucha is similar to vinegar, in that it is a base, not an acid. Kombucha also contains proteins and bacterias naturally found in the stomach and digestive track, so it can rebalance an otherwise off-kilter stomach. In other words, it can off-set the increased amounts of stomach acid that play a large role in Acid-Reflux.

    Also, Kombucha isn’t a placebo, and there’s no myth around it. It eases digestion and helps the body purge more fat, while getting more nutrients out of the food that’s being digested. That’s why the ‘wonder tonic’ claims are so far reaching–Kombucha’s work in the digestive track goes a long way towards buttressing the immune system and upping energy levels, primarily because the drinker is getting more bang out of every calorie digested.

  15. Dave Schultz Says:

    My heartburn occurs daily unless a) I stick to a strict diet with no carbs, dairy, or greasy/fatty food, like the Paleo Diet or b) I drink Kombucha daily. It’s not always possible to do a), so Kombucha has literally been a life saver for me. The medical knowledge that is being sold by doctors regarding heartburn is basically false. I have seen 3 about my heartburn, researched heartburn, GERD, and acid reflux literature throughout the medical literature and on the internet, taken Prilosec, Reglan, and got an endoscopy performed as well. The search for an answer did not stop there. 5 years later, after long periods of experimentation, I have come to realize you have to listen to your own body when it comes to these kinds of health issues. Listen to its reactions to every kind of food. The FDA and the medical industry in the U.S. are completely distorted in a way that is too complicated to explain, most likely due to government noses where they shouldn’t be. I’m sure they can help your broken leg, but not your heartburn. Now that the FDA has banned Kombucha until further notice, I am starting to brew my own. Good luck to the rest of the misguided herd out there.

  16. Leila Says:

    Hi! I started using Kombucha 2 days ago after trying a lot of different techniques to relief my stomach problems. I can eat only certain foods, and have problme when eating yogurt, kefir or cheese, even bread. I have noticed that after drinking Kombucha I have some sour feeling in my stomach, like something is fermenting. Is it normal? It feels like I am full of acid .. Please tell me about first reactions that Kombucha does.